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Porn Firm Sues Google Over Photos

Times Staff Writer

A Beverly Hills pornography publisher sued Google Inc. for copyright infringement Friday, accusing the Internet titan of failing to adequately remove from its search results thousands of photos posted online without permission.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Perfect 10 Inc. alleged that Web surfers could find its copyrighted pictures of nude women for free by performing Google searches.

The company said it had sent 27 formal requests to Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to remove the offending websites from its index and stop displaying the photographs in its search results, but was not satisfied with Google’s response.

“It’s very difficult to make money when all of your pictures are given away worldwide for free,” said Perfect 10 President Norm Zada.

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A Google spokesman declined to comment, saying the company had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.

Perfect 10 is represented by attorney Russell Frackman, who also represented major record companies in their lawsuits against file-sharing networks for copyright infringement.

Federal law places the burden of identifying copyright infringement on the copyright holder. Google is not compelled to ferret out violations, but it is required to respond to violations brought to its attention.

Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, said Google had typically responded quickly to remove infringing works from its database.

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Google has sometimes been accused of being too aggressive in responding to complaints of digital copyright violations. For example, the search engine company was accused of censorship after, at the request of the Church of Scientology, it removed from its searchable index websites criticizing the church.

“Google gets tons of notices and generally listens to them,” Zittrain said. “I’d be surprised if they weren’t listening to these.”

In 2002, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that search engines could not display full-sized images without linking back to the website upon which they were posted.

But they can display smaller images, or thumbnails, without infringing copyrights. Google displays its results in postage-sized images but links to websites that Perfect 10 says illegally display full-sized images.

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